USARK (United States Association of Reptile Keepers) is a national organization promoting reptile awareness, responsible care standards, and professionalism in the reptile hobby. And one of their biggest fights is keeping snakes, and especially the large ones, legal as pets. For more information, visit their website.
Back in March, New England Reptile wrote an amazing (if strongly worded) Facebook post about the damage caused when one snake keeper posts feeding or bite footage to social media. You can read the post below with a few edits for readability, or see the original here on their Facebook page. Which you should be following, by the way. And their Instagram. I <3 N.E.R.D!
Large Python/Boa Keepers—Our Present Crisis
Our hobby has changed considerably over the past 12 years. We now keep and breed snakes that were only in our dreams. As we enjoy the fruits of our labors we are quickly being targeted by anti pet keeping organizations and federal and state legislators. As we progress in our husbandry and breeding abilities we appear to digress in our understanding of how we are viewed by others, people that do not share in our pleasure.
Let me be blunt, the reptile/exotic pet industry and its keepers are Ground Zero in the war against the keeping of pets. As anti pet keeping organizations such as HSUS work toward their mission statement, “to end pet keeping in the United States,” we come sharply into focus. the easiest target is a bunch of weirdos keeping animals that are considered loathsome, dangerous, disgusting, injurious, and unsuitable as pets. As we all know, our pets of choice are not cute and cuddly—often they are at the other end of the spectrum. We are literally the perfect target, as we hang out in the open defending our rights to keep our predatory pets in cages in a spare bedroom!
Well, we do not have the “right” to keep these animals—this is the actual reality. We can argue it over and over but it is not an actual right. We are presently allowed to keep these animals in some states. According to USFWS, it is a “privilege” that we are allowed to keep these animals.
In a rather short time large pythons and boas have risen in popularity with pet keepers and pet legislators. The more people keeping these animals, the more people that notice we keep them, and the more people want to stop us from keeping them. Each and every year anti pet groups become more powerful and greatly affect the pet keeping industry. These victories are often quiet, as they aid USFWS and state agencies to ban species from the pet keeping world. There is no reasoning with these people; as passionate as we are about our animals, they are equally passionate about animal rights and the cruelty they perceive we present. Anti pet keepers would rather a 10th generation captive bred and born parrot to not exist or to be dead than ever to live in a cage. We can argue that the bird is happy and loves its life, but these people will never understand. They are beyond rational thinking.
Clearly, I can go on for a very long time about the aspects of our plight and our position, but we need to all be on the same page now. All larger reptile keepers need to establish some basic guidelines about what we do, post, and say. We keep carnivores—we know what they do. They eat other things.
DON’T post any of it! Don’t post them eating, don’t post what they are eating. We are not sadists, and we do not need to publicly relish this activity. The people that continue to do this make all of us look bad. Remember one very important thing: it may only take one person, one incident to change everything! We are only as strong as our weakest link. Time to firm things up and disassociate ourselves from the people that continue to embarrass our community. There is literally no benefit to showing any carnivore’s behavior. We all know about it, but bragging and making dumb comments only provides ammo for our enemies.
When you go to McDonald’s, do you see lots of pictures of chickens and cows? Do you ever hear anything about fast food and what their product is made of? Clearly not. This is for a reason, and we better smarten up fast! Anyone that displays an interest in the suffering or torture of rodents needs to either stop or become an outcast. This is an incredibly sensitive subject and we are not in a position to challenge this fact. I am writing all of this in a simple fashion but I am not laying it all out in print, as I do not want to provide bits to be further used against us (wink wink, NUDGE, NUDGE!!!!).
Bite pictures—yes, a snake may sometimes bite when it mistakes us for a snack or just gets confused. It’s not an opportunity to get fame and attention. What is up with people getting nipped and feeling the need to post it all over social media? Are we that lusty for attention? People that keep these snakes so they can get attention are not people that will do anything positive for any of us. Attention seekers will create negative attention and create problems. Yes, we love big snakes and showing them around, but if you do it, do it with your brain turned up to 10! All it takes is one idiot parading their large constrictor out in public and scaring people to change and ruin things.
If you keep large snakes, you need to seize the educational aspect of your animals and what you do. Remember, these animals are the representatives of tropical and remote lands. Use your opportunities to enlighten people, get over their fears, and more importantly, create value! Reptiles and such are vanishing from the landscape; each and every day there is less of the natural world and more of us! I can’t push the educational aspect enough. This creates value, meaning, and understanding in what we do and why these animals are suitable pets. Every responsible reptile keeper that teaches other is doing a wonderful job of helping all of us—every half a** keeper only hurts us. It can take one idiot on social media to embarrass our entire community of keepers, just like one lie can be more powerful than a thousand truths.
Our present legal battle against USFWS’ injurious legal regulations with our battering ram, USARK, is working well. We have argued effectively against the massive list of mistruths and fiction provided by USFWS, HSUS (National Humane Society), and Center for Biological Diversity. an effective argument is no small feat. We literally have to choose what we regard as the most significant arguable points and create a digestible counter for the judge. As we read documents sometimes 330+ pages of reasons why many pythons and boas should be banned as pets and interstate transport, it is easy to get lost in the nonsense. As I read these pages, my natural response is to write 330+ pages of reasons why it’s not factual, scientific, or reasonable.
Clearly attorneys can’t make sense of each and every point. We need to pick solid points and keep it intelligible for the judge. Remember, the judge knows nothing about snakes, sees their massive documentation why they should be banned, and sees our smaller version why the information is flawed. We are naturally on the short end of the stick, as we do not have the enormous benefit of being a government agency. The judge is an intelligent and reasonable man. he views the arguments and tries to make sense of the “facts,” regardless of over 300 pages of nonsense provided by our opposition. We are presently waiting for the judge to hear USFWS’ appeal and I feel our position is presently solid.
“Presently solid”—what does that mean? Well, that means as long as we continue to act in a reasonable fashion and watch what we are doing. We have argued the facts and educated the court; now we need to remain in a positive light. Essentially, we need to regulate ourselves even better and not provide the ammunition that our opponents are so desperate to have. We are no longer just fighting a government agency—we are fighting private groups that literally hate us and use fiction as a serious tool! They have a near endless amount of money and they have the ear of the public—we have none of that! The amount of energy they use to create hysteria, misconceptions, fear, loathing, and action against us is incredible.
You see the sad animals suffering on TV and donate money to save them, right? Wrong. They take the money, hire more lobbyists to help USFWS create laws against pet keepers, and create endless nightmares for us. We are the Enemy. We are small, poor, and disorganized. We only have one weapons: reality! In this fight, lies are far more effective than truth and we need to smarten up and remember the world is watching each and every one of us! Social media may be fun, but it is an effective way to accumulate information, pictures, and videos that can and will be used against us.
I am stating that there needs to be an immediate end to feeding videos, pictures, and anything to do with this aspect.
- Don’t post something clever, just don’t post any of it!
- No more bite pictures unless insignificant and with purpose. Do NOT ever post a bite picture where the injury looks significant, scary, or rather bloody. Adult and sub adult bites should not be posted. Superficial bites are okay. The Internet is watching and loves to make our pets look scary!
- Posting things to get attention that makes us look bad need to end. Posting snakes and sounding like a gangster is not going to help us and does a wonderful job to pigeon hole us as idiots.
- Anything that can be viewed as animal cruelty—don’t post it!
- Posting snakes in a filthy cage or something that is clearly not admirable (without purpose)—don’t do it!
- Stop posting dumb things that make you or other snake keepers look bad. Show off your snakes. Show off people playing with snakes. But don’t show the world that you have a 3rd grade education and that you’re an idiot.
- EDUCATION. Why is this the last thing that people want to show? What has happened to us? Show off pictures of people interacting with snakes in a positive light! Show snakes in a way so people wonder and rethink their fear.
- Do not post a snake in a small enclosure or so filthy that another person could take it out of context as cruel or unsuitable. The world is watching.
- Watch what you say. Do not talk about them as dangerous in any way. By making them out to look scary or dangerous/harmful, you are damaging our hobby!
- If you are doing anything illegal, or illegally keeping them in a state or community where you should not, DON’T post it!!!
Last point to consider. State agencies are hopping on an idea: You will need proof of insurance and a million dollar policy to keep animals in your state. No one will be allowed to touch it but the permitted. You will need to create an emergency plan for who will take it if you die. You will not be allowed to take it outside your home. You would be labeled as a danger to the public, community, environment, etc. You would have to go through all sorts of nightmarish stuff just to keep the animals you now have. Don’t provide the fuel that hurts us all. I can’t fight for all of you if you don’t stop and think about what you are doing and how it may make all of us look. We can’t endure further mistakes at this time. Our fight is difficult and we need to watch ourselves and put a good face on what we do. We do not need an added permit system—they can create such restrictions that having the permit and snake offers little enjoyment!
Sharing videos of AWFUL videos involving cute little things that we keep as pets being eaten is DUMB!!! Lots of people enjoy all sorts of critters, and they freak out when they see this stuff. Why would we want to aggravate these people? (Example: the Asian video of the puppy and the snake. It is awful and weaponry. Get rid of it, delete it, and DO. NOT. SHARE!) Stop doing that, delete it, and make it go the hell away—it is going to kill us! Other breeders or keepers that are mouthing off and condemning us on social media are only going to hurt us, so do not help them in any way! Breeders and well know keepers: time to smarten up and think about what you are posting. Don’t be an idiot and the anti-snake poster child. I don’t care if you need attention— use your brain and wake up!